Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Amaretti: the magical culinary biscuit

Amaretti: the magical culinary biscuit
If you’ve never tried an Italian ameretti biscuit, then you’re missing out on something special. The name literally means ‘a little bitter’, but the experience of tasting one is anything but. Think crunchy, nutty and a hint of apricots or marzipan and you’ll be close.

The dark brown biscuit is dusted in sugar crystals, and while hard and brittle to bite, it has a wonderful way of melting in your mouth. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but the biscuit is known to use just three key ingredients: egg whites, sugar and either apricot kernels or almonds. More than just a biscuit, it’s a popular ingredient in many Italian desserts, including trifles, macaroons, crepes and even gelato, where it adds a delicious crunchy texture.

Amaretti di Saronno make the most famous amaretti biscuits – each serving a symmetrical pair nestled together and wrapped in thin tissue paper – and they also hold a secret. Roll the wrapper into a ball, place it on a saucer, apply heat and it magically rises in the air. Even the container the biscuits come in has pedigree. With an iconic red and white design that has changed little in decades, it’s a popular collectors’ item. The spell-binding Amaretti di Saronno tin even appeared in the first Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie. (Although with the neat heat trick, Harry could make the wrappers rise in the air without casting the spell ‘wingardium leviosa’.)